Knowledge of XML technologies is vital for top Biztalk developers

Business process integration tool to embrace web services

Business process integration tool to embrace web services

What is it?

Dependent on SQL Server and Visual Studio, Biztalk Server offers business process integration for a Microsoft-centred world.

Back in 2000 when the first Biztalk server was launched, enterprise application integration was big business. Different to previous systems that had depended on plug-ins, XML promised a lingua franca that all suppliers' applications could use to communicate, with web services providing the infrastructure.

The forthcoming Biztalk Server 2006 takes us closer to the XML/web services world, but integration with Oracle applications, SAP and the rest still requires adaptors and plug-ins.

Where did it originate?

Biztalk began as an industry initiative to integrate business applications and business processes, rather like Rosettanet. It was always Microsoft's show, and now seems to have been absorbed back within Microsoft.

An article on the Biztalk home page admitted Biztalk Server 2000 was "hard to install, configure, and operate. Its available tools confused developers". Biztalk Server 2002 was a slight improvement, but the breakthrough came in 2004, when the entire product was rewritten for the .net Framework and a new toolset integrated with Visual Studio.net

What's it for?

Biztalk Server provides business integration for the low to mid range. It comes with support for many different protocols, and adaptors for leading enterprise applications. There are also about 100 plug-in adaptors from partner suppliers. The XML-based messaging layer handles the communication with other applications, while the orchestration layer takes care of sequencing, flow and transactions.

What makes it special?

Analyst firm Bloor Research said, "For those companies that have bent over and accepted the Microsoft architecture, Biztalk is probably second to none." With Biztalk Server 2006, Microsoft set out to simplify installation, configuration and operation, and has improved developer tools. Some gaps have been filled: for example, a Sharepoint Services adaptor.

How difficult is it to master?

Microsoft's Biztalk deployment and management course lasts two days. The Developing E-Business Solutions With Biztalk course takes five days. Advanced Biztalk developers will need to be familiar with core XML technologies such as Xpath and XSLT.

Where is it used?

Since the release of Biztalk 2004, Microsoft claims to have signed up 5,000 user companies.

What systems does it run on?

Biztalk Server 2006 will be shipped with adaptors for MSMQ, SAP R/3, IBM Websphere MQ, Oracle applications, JD Edwards, Tibco, PeopleSoft and Siebel.

What's coming up?

Biztalk Server 2006 is promised for some time next year. Although it will run on SQL Server 2000, you will need Visual Studio 2005 to make use of the security, productivity and performance improvements delivered in .net Framework 2.0.

Rates of pay

Salaries start at £28,000 for .lnet developers with Biztalk. Experienced Biztalk developers could earn up to £50,000 as consultants, or £300 to £400 a day as contractors.

Training

Classroom-based training is offered by Microsoft's partners, or you can find online tutorials and free webcasts on www.microsoft.com/biztalk/techinfo/training/default.mspx. With the recent announcement of Biztalk Server 2006, Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005, you might be able to find a free roadshow or Techtalk event.

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